When A Hidden Learning Disability Holds You Back

Strategies to Overcome Insecurities About Learning at Work

Susan A. Fitzell
The Learning Strategist IQ
5 min readJun 22, 2021

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Photo by SIphotography / iStockphoto Standard License

Do you see yourself in this person?

Twelve-year-old Joe frustrated his teachers. He had difficulty focusing on his work. He preferred to socialize with the students sitting next to him rather than getting his work done. He paid attention to the teacher for about 10 minutes and then was off gazing into space. He struggled to remember what he’d been taught and more importantly he couldn’t seem to implement what he learned to complete his work or pass tests.

“Joe is intelligent and wants to do a good job, but he just does not apply himself, especially when he’s required to learn information that he thinks is boring,” one of his teachers wrote.

Fast forward to 35-year-old Joe, who is a source of frustration for his boss. Joe has difficulty focusing on his work. He prefers to socialize with his colleagues rather than getting his work done. Continual learning is required in his job to keep up with current regulations and industry specs. When attending a training specifically required to update his skill set, he’s observed staring off into space.

He has the opportunity to use the company’s learning management system as an alternative option, yet he procrastinates and does not complete the modules in a timely way. Even when he does get through the learning modules, he struggles to remember what he’s been taught and, more importantly, he can’t seem to implement what he’s learned to complete his work.

“Joe is intelligent and generally motivated to do a good job. He just doesn’t apply himself when required to upskill,” his boss writes.

Seeing a pattern here?

Adult Joe has many of the same problems he did as a boy. He is aware that he’s struggling at work. His career has just about stalled. He’s struggling with anxiety and depression. And he doesn’t know what to do about it.

Before we go farther, let me mention that Joe is a real person (I’m just not using his real name) who I coached. He was referred to me by his boss — who, like Joe’s teachers in school, saw a bright, hardworking person that balked at completing certain tasks…

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Susan A. Fitzell
The Learning Strategist IQ

I write, speak, and coach to foster understanding of neurodiversity in organizations. Top Neurodiversity Writer https://lnk.bio/susanfitzell